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- April 5th, 2010
The coming biomassacre
As a certified green builder I feel I am qualified to render an
opinion on the unsettling topic of biomass. It has become obvious,
after reading the well-written article by Anne Stanton (3/8/10), that
Ed Rice of
Traverse City Light & Power (TCLP),
mayor Chris Bzdok, city commissioner Jim Carruthers and all the other
proponents of biomass are either ignorant of or are ignoring specific,
glaring, data.
To skew certain facts and totally ignore others altogether to expound
on and expand their arguments for a biomass plant only proves they are
not qualified to render any definitive opinions at all. Case in point.
1. There is ample proof that a biomass plant is not as carbon neutral
as they would have us believe. And it’s an absurd comparison from
those who assert burning a tree releases the same amount of carbon
dioxide as one that decomposes over 40 years. In that span of time, an
average biomass plant will have burned 4 million tons of wood from 3
million “harvested” wood acres, releasing 8 billion pounds of carbon
dioxide into the atmosphere.
2. There is a reason that trees die and decompose -- this regenerates
our soils, reduces erosion, and feeds the most benign micro-organisms
at the beginning of the food chain amongst others. No one knows what
the long term consequences would be by removing this staple, and to
ignore the potential consequences is extremely shortsighted and
3. The rush to produce corn-based ethanol has proved to be one of the
biggest follies of the 21st century for numerous reasons before one
even considers the government subsidies issue. Don’t any of these
so-called experts see the corollary between biomass plants and the
many ethanol plants that have gone idle or closed down altogether?
4. Has anyone drawn concentric circles in a 75 mile radius around Mancelona,
Traverse City, and potentially Frankfort? Guess what? They overlap. So
how is this going to work when you now have three times the demand for
wood products from the same areas of our region? Logging and select
cutting is very invasive and this will decimate these areas.
5. Consider that TCLP has spent millions on a wind generator that
produces only one per cent of their annual power and has already
required several hundred thousand dollars in maintenance
(incorporating used parts because new ones were cost prohibitive). I
think the true cost of wind electricity is more than 10.5 cents per
kilowatt hour. Is this good fiscal responsibility on TCLP’s part?
There are many sensible alternatives to biomass but it would seem the
$25 million they (TCLP) have in reserve is burning a hole in their
pocket and not being managed wisely at this juncture. Common sense is
just not in their vocabulary.
I am a big proponent for exploring reasonable and more realistic
alternate energy sources, but to rush foolhardily into a technology
whose potential long term detriments haven’t been fully weighed or
explored is madness. And to potentially destroy a resource faster than
it can regenerate is not a good example of sound reasoning or a well
planned venue -- it’s woodland genocide --it’s a biomassacre.

Henry S. Ramsby • TC

A healthier America
As a physician, I encounter patients every single day who have
untreated medical conditions due to lack of access to healthcare. This
problem is growing as employers eliminate benefits and insurance
becomes less affordable. For those with health insurance, their share
of expenses is increasing as employers shift the cost burden due to
rising prices.
Now, for the first time in decades, legislation has passed that
addresses these issues. Almost all Americans will now have access to
health care -- like in all other industrialized nations. No longer
will you be beholden to your job for fear of losing your insurance due
to a pre-existing condition. Children can be covered on their parent’s
plan until age 26. Insurance companies will face more strict
regulation. Small businesses get tax credits to help provide coverage.
Hospitals will have fewer non-paying patients. Seniors will have
better prescription coverage. If you already have insurance, you can
keep it, and your doctor.
Health care reform does all this while maintaining our current
employer-based health care system (like it or not). In
addition, this bill reduces the deficit more than any legislation
since the Clinton budget of 1993.
America will become healthier. That’s change I can believe in.

David P. McClary, MD • TC

Sunshine for Kauai
Long story short... Someone from your neck of the woods visited Kauai
and more importantly loved a local restaurant named “Tutu’s Soup Hale”
so much they sent a bottle of maple syrup, a box of Michigan fudge and
a handful of newspapers. Northern
Express happened to be one of those pubs and WE, the customers and
friends of Tutu’s began reading them like we had suddenly been given
sight after a lifetime of darkness. We love your paper. It is filled
with as much sunshine as our 50th state.
I am a local fixture at Tutu’s and I must say after reading the St.
Patrick’s Day issue I was ready to board the next jet to Michigan and
hoist a few Guinesses at each and every bar from your issue. People
say Hawaii is Fun in the Sun but I suspect sliding down a hill in one
of those cardboard car mock-up sleds while screaming yer head off must
be a laugh and a half and easily equal to our beach scene (without the
But, I digress. The real reason I wrote you is to say how much I
enjoyed Stephen Tuttle’s “Why not Sarah Palin?” in the Spectator
column. Tuttle writes like a journeyman carpenter given a nail gun and
unlimited metal spikes. He carefully words his structure with
patience, accuracy and a steady drive to deliver a clear view of why
the White House should not fall in the hands of an incompetent celeb.
In case any GOP readers missed the last paragraph, he also added “It
can be legitimately stated that we need fresh faces with fresh ideas,
Washington is filled with musty, self-serving twits of both political
parties slowly driving us off the cliff.” Yes, he said “both” and I
wholeheartedly agree.
Tuttle covered the whole scenario of politics, celebrity, and the ease
in which a media jester can rise to the throne based on a toothy smile
and a little light banter. The general public dearly loves celebs that
can talk a good horoscope, Oooh, she gets my vote! and that’s how some
movie stars have gained access to the political cudgel.
I am hoping Mr. Tuttle might consider coming to Kauai. There is an
opening for a government reporter at The Garden Island newspaper. The
position has been open for a month and no one has stepped forward to
fill it. I think he would make an excellent candidate and the warmth
of the sun might be a nice change from all that fun in the snow. Aloha
nui loa.

Leo DuBois • Kauai

Where can you smoke?
With the looming smoking ban coming soon I think it would be a good
time to ask questions on this subject.
Most people forgot about the ban on smoking in downtown TC in front of
public buildings (15 feet, I believe) that was passed a few years ago.
After a new Michigan law goes into effect smokers will not be able to
smoke inside OR outside of bars and restaurants.
Even if you wanted to go outside, you would have to walk to an alley
or another place not near public buildings -- this makes it virtually
illegal to smoke anywhere downtown. Where do the lawmakers and
uptight non-smokers expect them to smoke?
I know many people who like to smoke a cigarette or cigar with drinks,
but this will now be deemed a crime. It’s bad enough that owners of
these establishments have lost their rights choose to offer a smoking
section or not—but now the fine folks who smoke can no longer choose
to smoke—human rights are now no longer valid.
To those that find smoking offensive—you have the right to dine in the
many nonsmoking restaurants and bars (not to mention the food in bars
that allow smoking is mediocre at best—so why would you even fight to
eat there).
Why don’t smokers also have these rights? Michigan is not the first
state to enact this type of smoking ban and it will not be the
last—and it is nice to sit and eat and drink in a clean air
environment—but the restaurants in other smoke-free states offer
places outside to smoke that do not bother the nonsmoking public.
The soon-to-be law in Michigan states that owners cannot offer outside
areas designated for smoking and since smokers can not smoke on
sidewalks in front or behind these businesses there is no place in the
city limits to smoke.’ Bad idea. We need a compromise.

George Nemetz • TC

(You can smoke next to buildings in TC, just not next to windows or
entrances. Under the city ordinance, “Smoking is prohibited within 15
feet of entrances, open windows and ventilation systems of all places
where smoking is otherwise prohibited.” - ed.)

Biomass a forest disaster
My opposition to biomass production of electricity is based in the
fact that I love trees. The carbon they absorb and the oxygen returned
are just an extension of their positive contribution to the natural
beauty we enjoy here in Northern Michigan.
I feel any wholesale slaughter of our forests to help create
electricity would be a grave error in judgement and a continuing
negative influence on the health of anything living, as well as the
health of our tourism based economy.
The burning of wood produces not only the particle pollutants known
for the brownouts of some western resort towns, but also 18 polycyclic
hydrocarbons, dioxins, carbon monoxide, benzene, toluene, as well as
trace amounts of radioactive cesium and two psychologically damaging
elements in copper and lead.
Maybe the gasification could help reduce this pollution problem but
this process would seem to be expensive to build and maintain, and as
the article in the 3/8 Northern Express says it is an unproven
technology at the scale being considered.
If job creation in the local economy is a factor, I would suggest
TCL&P consider following the lead of Ann Arbor mentioned in Anne
Stanton‘s article. The power company could become involved in the
installation and maintenance of solar panels and wind turbines where
applicable, on an individual basis. They appear to have the capital
to finance this effort and might easily see a much greater, continuing
return on dollars invested. It would also eliminate a crisis should
this single source biomass production need to be shut down for
maintenance, which would seem to be an inevitability. TCL&P could
even become involved in the financing of these individual units
creating even more revenue for the company and more job opportunities
in the area.

Bob Wallick • Cross Village

A terrible waste
Does anyone know if TCL&P has investigated the available technology
for converting waste into energy?
Europe has been the leader in this creative endeavor by hauling waste
to energy plants where trash is converted into fuel and electricity.
Denmark derives 70% of its energy through this process and Sweden 55%.
Considering the necessity of preserving our trees and with landfills
overflowing, this solution would seem to be a “win-win” for all
An informative article with further information on this subject is at
As Bruce Parker, President of the National Solid Waste Management
Association stated, “Waste is a terrible thing to waste.”

Charlene Michael • East Jordan

Remember a good man
Gene Pelizzari recently passed away. A wise and humble man, we came to
know Gene 15 years ago when he and his family gave our family
permission to walk our pup on their property.
Countless times, we met up with Gene during those walks. He’d ask
whether we’d seen a fox, owl or other wildlife. Then we’d talk about
a story related to the land. Gene educated us about the property’s
history, owned by his family since the 1920s and tended by Gene for
Today, the property Gene permitted us to know - both through our hikes
and the memories he shared - is a preserved public natural area,
available for all to enjoy on Old Mission Peninsula.
The creation of this natural area took a decade of work by dedicated
volunteers and the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy, then a
millage approval by Peninsula Township residents. It’s a resource
created by and dedicated to the entire community. Yet for many of us,
the beginning of knowing this land came through the graciousness of
Gene and the Pelizzari family.
Acts of kindness gently ripple across time. This is part of Gene
Pelizzari’s legacy.

Dave Murphy & Sue Peters

I don‘t want your love
Whoever is defacing my neighborhood with scrawled declarations of
love, please stop. I realize that in your Hallmark mind what you’re
chalking and spray-painting on the sidewalks and T.A.R.T. trail
constitute sweet niceties, but I find them creepy. When I leave my
house and walk over an anonymous “I LOVE YOU!” written on the
sidewalk, I’m not filled with warmth at the thought of a stranger’s
love for me. I think, ‘Oh great I have another stalker.“
I know you aren’t my stalker (I hope), but you could be someone’s and
you might consider that what you’re doing is vandalizing and not
welcome by everyone. save your “I LOVE YOUs,” and “DON’T WORRY IT’LL
BE ALRIGHTs” for the bathroom mirror. Quit with the spray-painted
hearts too please.

Mike Morey • TC
Do the math on the arts
More than math counts in this world.
The arts are proven to help close the achievement gap. Research
described in Critical Links: Learning in the Arts and Student Academic
and Social Development finds that learning in the arts may boost
learning and achievement for young children, students from
economically disadvantaged circumstances, and students needing
remedial instruction.
The No Child Left Behind Act recognizes the arts as a core academic
subject, making them eligible for inclusion in broad categories such
as teacher training, school reform, and technology. However, recent
studies have shown that some schools are neglecting arts education in
favor of other core subjects such as math and science.
President Obama’s arts platform statement included support for arts
education, stating that: “In addition to giving our children the
science and math skills they need to compete in the new global
context, we should also encourage the ability to think creatively that
comes from a meaningful arts education.”
Arts education helps prepare a creative workforce. According to a
2007 Conference Board report, “Ready to Innovate,” there is
overwhelming support from school superintendents (98%) and corporate
leaders (96%) that creativity is of increasing importance to the U.S.
A 2006 report from the New Commission on the Skills of the American
Workforce said, “The best employers the world over will be looking for
the most competent, most creative, and most innovative people on the
face of the earth and will be willing to pay them top dollar for their
services.” The report includes the arts as an essential skill for the
future workforce.

Thomas Morrell • TC

Lacks logic
This letter is in response to Stephen Tuttle’s column on February 22,
“Reduce my taxes, cut your benefits.“
There is no logic to his reasoning. If you abolish taxes, why are some
people still going to pay? Does he mean some people can opt out and
some others are still in? Who would determine who is in or out? You
wouldn’t have to move if there is no zoning. There wouldn’t be anyone
to tell you what you can or can’t do or what your neighbor can or
can’t do. Most of the cost of gasoline is tax. That does not mean
there would be no gas, just no money going to pay for whatever the tax
pays for. Vehicle registration and driver’s licenses are just taxes.
You wouldn’t necessarily have to hunt and forage for food, you just
wouldn’t have government telling you what they think is safe. The
results would then be that other people might be doing things that you
don’t like.
Regulation and taxes are a means of controlling people. Just how much
is tolerated as “good for the people” before people think it is
Taxes and regulation DO have a direct impact upon each of us. We are
forced to pay for the wasteful spending that few of us benefit from.
When people are losing their homes and jobs, they still have to pay.
Eliminating the waste will save billions, but not cause our fireman or
policeman to lose their job.
The original tea party was to protest taxation without representation.
The new tea parties are to protest taxation without REAL

Judy Blake • Petoskey

Peg Muzzall deserves credit as the photographer for many photos from
Petoskey, Charlevoix, Boyne and other communities in last week‘s “Best
of Northern Michigan” issue.

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